Austin cited for trespassing

NEWAYGO COUNTY – Candidate for Lake County sheriff Bruce Austin will be sentenced Friday on a trespassing charge in Newaygo County.

Austin did not show up to a Sept. 16 sentencing and was charged a failure to appear to a court proceeding. A bench warrant was issued for his arrest by District Court Judge H. Kevin Drake.

According to Austin, his absence at his September sentencing was just a misunderstanding.

“I was told I was given six months unsupervised probation and thought it meant that, and it was done with. I thought that just meant don’t get in trouble and it will be okay,” he said. “Apparently, it wasn’t.”

He was charged with a violation of section 750.552 of the Michigan Penal Code, punishable by up to 30 days in the county jail and/or a $250 fine.

According to Austin, who is owner of Austin Animal Rescue in Baldwin, he received an anonymous tip in February 2011 that acts of animal cruelty were occurring on a property in Newaygo County. He traveled there to investigate the tip.

“There were parts of piglets that had been eaten, there were dead chickens, dead horses, no food no water for any of the animals, so I took some pictures and I called the sheriff’s department and was told it was president’s day and that nobody was working,” he said. “So eventually I raised (the local animal control officer) and got him on his cell phone and got in an argument with him. So they got me for trespassing.”

According to records from the 78th District Court in White Cloud, Austin was cited for the violation by the Michigan State Police on April 14, 2011 and posted a 10 percent cash surety bond in the amount of $100 on April 18, 2011.

He was arraigned on April 25, 2011 and pleaded not guilty to the charge. He then changed his mind and pleaded guilty. He was scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 16 and did not show up for sentencing.

Court records indicate that Austin contacted the court on Sept. 21 and was “very hostile” in his conversation with court employees. Austin was hung up on by a court employee “when the conversation got nasty.”

Austin said that he thought the matter was resolved until an officer from the Michigan State Police issued a warrant for his arrest at his home on April 18, Austin was required to post a $1,000 cash bond to avoid being taken to jail.

Even with this controversy, Austin does not regret the incident.

“I don’t like going outside the county, but I can’t refuse it. I have a passion for rescuing animals,” he said. “I will trespass where I need to vindicate animal rights. That’s just the way it’s going to be.”

“As a businessman and a sheriff candidate, my rescue is a completely different phase for me. I am and always be involved in the rescue of animals. If we don’t stand up for the animals, nobody will.”

Austin is challenging incumbent Sheriff Robert Hilts for the Democratic nomination in the August 7 primary.